Sanctuary: The Manifest Kingdom

If you’ve ever watched the Hunchback of Notre Dame, you’re probably familiar with the concept of sanctuary. If you haven’t, allow me to set the scene for you. Near the end of the movie, we find Quasimodo, the titular character, chained atop the Cathedral of Notre Dame. He is crying out for Esmeralda, his gypsy “friend,” who is literally being burned at the stake in the city center. In a momentous display of strength, Quasimodo breaks free of his chains, swoops down, scoops Esmeralda into his arms, and climbs back up to the top. He holds her scorched—but otherwise alive—body above his head and shouts, “Sanctuary! Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” The crowd below riots, but they are powerless. His declaration of sanctuary protects Esmeralda and rescues her from certain death at the hands of the state.

Sanctuary—in all its cinematic, political, ecclesiastical, and biblical forms—is a universal human desire. It signifies a place of refuge, a protected space that lies in the gap between life and death, flourishing and decay. To the church, and those familiar with church, sanctuary is where people are gathered and therefore, according to the Scriptures, God is with them. To the political refugee, sanctuary is a haven where they are offered life temporarily as a reprieve from the clutches of the state. To the student, sanctuary is where life is breathed back into tired eyes and buzzing brains. Yet, whether you are a migrant facing persecution from the state or an overwhelmed student, sanctuary offers something we all want: rest for our weary souls. 

Growing up in a small Chinese Baptist church, I thought sanctuary was mostly a place where church stuff happened. Sanctuaries were where I did Bible Drills, played hide and seek with my friends in the choir loft, played piano while the adults were in meetings, and snuck behind the altar to eat communion wafers (whoops). Sanctuaries didn’t receive much reverence from me, much less any feeling that I would desperately want to be in one. But now, amidst surmounting political unrest, a continuing mental health epidemic, and countless other ways in which this current moment presses and crushes our souls, there has not been a day that I have not wanted and sought out sanctuary. So, how and where do we find it? 

In the Bible, sanctuary is first invoked when Moses encounters the burning bush in Exodus 3. As the story goes, Moses is tending to his sheep and sees a bush on fire yet miraculously not burned up. As he approaches the bush to examine it, God calls out, “Do not come near; take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy ground” [1]. In the first sanctuary, God’s presence is both too set-apart for Moses to approach and too intimate for Moses to have his sandals on. There, upon that sacred ground (sancta terra in Latin), Moses receives his commission to lead God’s deliverance of the Israelites. God proclaims that He has seen the affliction of His people, and in response, He is sending Moses to free them from their slavery. 

In the first sanctuary, Moses finds his purpose.

This is no mistake, nor is Moses’ response to his great commission. Moses hides his face and says to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” At this point in the story, Moses is a mere shepherd, has a speaking problem, and is wanted for murder back in Egypt. He is, in the most human response, afraid of his calling. Moses thinks he is not enough—not well-spoken enough, not powerful enough to save the Israelites. After all, he is being told by a God-sent burning bush to go start an insurrection against the most powerful nation on the face of the earth. Of course he feels unworthy. God knows that. 

God already knows who Moses is—his faults and his story—and has chosen him regardless. 

Yet God’s response to Moses’ fear is not one of affirmation. It is not “you’ve got this,” or “you’ll figure it out, dude!” Instead, God says what might be the most central promise in the entire Bible: “I will be with you.” The promise shows that what is necessary is not Moses’ abilities but God’s. It shows that Moses has been chosen, but God is the one who is crucial. This is God’s promise to expand that first sanctuary—extending, through Moses’ faithful movement, the places where God is with man. God’s plan for the Israelites is to extend His presence and power beyond the burning bush, using His chosen shepherd to lead His people to freedom.

And yes, this all points to Jesus. It always does. 

When Jesus came, fully God and fully man, He extended that sanctuary to the ends of the earth, to every people, tribe, and tongue. Jesus, God-with-us, is the perfect embodiment of what it means for God to dwell with man. Just like Moses, He offers freedom to all that follow Him into it, and just like God, He invites us to join Him in that same mission.

I suggest to you, dear reader, that the way we create and become sanctuary for others is the ultimate way we reflect God’s love. I believe that if we truly grasped and embodied what it means to be a sanctuary for the world, to be a saving space filled with hope, we would become more like Christ. And in that becoming, we would display to the world the power, magnitude, and temerity of God’s love. Nothing is greater than that call.  

And so, as you seek sanctuary for yourself or others and ask where sanctuary can be found, I ask you Moses’ question: Who are you? Who are you becoming? 

I only ask, and care, because a sanctuary requires people. Inside sanctuaries, God helps us do the holy work of connecting places to their purpose and people to their Creator. It is where God, through His people and His power, does the unexplainable, sets the oppressed free, and brings life to the lifeless. A sanctuary is where God meets man. It is the kingdom of God made manifest. And as Moses’ story shows, that requires people. 

A sanctuary does not have to be the Exodus or some cinematic heroic moment. It does not require stained glass windows or marble columns. Not all expressions of sanctuary must be momentous. Sometimes sanctuary looks like an elderly undocumented woman living at the church because otherwise she’d be deported. Sometimes it looks like taking a deep breath and saying, “Jesus, come.” Sometimes it looks like the carpeted room in the back of the basement where you can escape from the worries of the world and have friends pray over you. Sometimes it looks like a hug.

So I ask again: Who are you? Who are you becoming? In what ways are you becoming a sanctuary? Do you believe God wants to be with you in every moment? How are you extending the miracle of presence to the hurting? Have you been a safe space for the weary? Are you taking part in God’s mission to set people free? If you’re afraid of that calling or stuck in that becoming, welcome to the party. I’m glad you’re here. You’re not alone. God is with us.



1: Exodus 3:5, New American Standard Bible.


Loren Tsang ’22 majored in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations and Leadership Studies. He now works at Buckhead Church in Atlanta in their college ministry while pursuing a Masters in Christian Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary. In his free time, he enjoys going to the gym, making music, chasing sunsets, and cooking with his mom. 

Maranatha, Tetelestai: An Encounter

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it” — Phil. 1:6(a).

the bible, our definitive epic.
infinite source, muse for all humanity. studied, celebrated, repudiated, loved, hated. the hero’s journey from manger to messiah. story that made history,
told throughout the centuries.

all mighty made flesh:
victorious tragedy.
a carpenter carrying a wooden cross, a destitute riding a donkey,
a servant washing people’s feet,
all of them the sovereign savior.
so simple it transcends credibility. no one recognized you then.

and now i sit at the table
deaf to the knocking on my door.
i have spent my life in
the state of perpetual silence,
that which governed those three days the father abandoned you in calvary. eli, eli, lama sabachthani?
oh, abba, where are you?

i knelt before
your outstretched arms on the cross
and the air you let out with your last breath has overwhelmed my lungs:
desperation, longing, desire.
but before issuing this life sentence,
you whispered
it is finished.

if such was your decree
why do i still yearn for fulfillment? is it that just like before,
you are here and i can’t see you? tell me if i’m wishing for closure

that has always belonged to me.
have you completed your telos,
and are waiting for me to finish mine? forgive me, father,
for i do not know what i’m doing.

it is hard to explain with words.
i embody the emptiness of the tomb
now that you are not in it.
“tetelestai,” you say
“i am yours for i have called you to be mine.” help me consummate it, then.
for i fail to recognize
even my own name.
forgive me, father
for i do not know who i am.

you breathed out your spirit
to give me the holiest of ghosts,
and in the bath of pure water
that pours out of your side wound
i confront my humanity: i am not my own.

tetelestai is my rebirth in the divine,
that my existence is
because you were, are, and will always be. tetelestai is the death of my mortal flesh, that always bleeds, cries, ages, fails. tetelestai is longing with insanity

to behold the hands that shaped me —dust, prodigal, broken, vessel—
to perfection not yet here but assured.

and i cry, and my tears fall through the holes of your hands. seemingly wasted, but ending at your feet. in the death of my ego, i find identity. in the pouring of my heart, i find belonging. in my surrendering, you give me the air to breathe out: tetelestai.



“Maranatha” is Aramaic for “O Lord come.”


Alejandra Pirela ’25 is a prospective Political Economy major, with special interests in Latinx Studies and English. When not participating in prayer or discipleship, you can always find her bundled up in a corner of the chapel talking, studying, or napping. Born and raised in Venezuela, she is an avid fan of warmth in all its iterations: weather, people, food, and God. She hopes to spread that same peace and comfort throughout campus.

Unending Love by Joshua Hewson

The struggle of life is rough,

and waiting for better things

can hurt like hell.


We pray for better times

without knowing

when they will come

or if they will come.


But love redeems the struggle.


Love gives us patience 

when we are tired of waiting.


Love gives us hope

when we want to give up.


Love gives us direction

when we cannot find our way.


Love gives us joy

when everything feels broken.


God is Love;

to know God is to know Love.


The better I’ve come 

to understand Love, 

the better I’ve come 

to understand God.


I mean it all comes back to God’s love, doesn’t it? It’s the one thing that will actually lastingly satisfy us and that we do not need to wait for or worry about losing. Deep down, we long for something we already have: unconditional, unending love. For all that we seek out in our search for happiness, all we ever needed to do was to come Home.


Joshua Hewson 22 majored in Mathematics and served as Prayer Leader in Williams Christian Fellowship. He likes to think deeply and come up with ideas, especially while trail running. He was raised in London and now lives in Boston, where he does Artificial Intelligence research at Brown University. 

Humanity’s Homesickness

When I went to summer camp before the fifth grade, I experienced intense homesickness and overwhelming anxiety. To comfort me, my parents wrote me frequent letters. My favorite letters were two my father sent me containing long excerpts from two chapters of The Lord of the Rings: “The Choices of Master Samwise” and “The Tower of Cirith Ungol.” In these chapters, the hobbit Samwise Gamgee finds himself alone in the black lands of Mordor, his master Frodo taken by the enemy. The small hobbit has to battle Shelob, a giant spider, and break into the fortress of Cirith Ungol to save Frodo. My father explained to me that Sam could only become heroic in his most desperate hour when he was unsure of what to do, facing insurmountable odds, and bereft of the entire fellowship. Sam’s bravery encouraged me in my panicked state.  

Since those two summers, I have rarely experienced the same intense feeling of panic, but my anxiety has taken lesser, more common forms. I have found myself worrying about my deficiencies in social skills, fitness, and other faculties that I perceived to be greater in my friends. At a discussion on prayers of petition during a high school retreat, I wrote down several things that I wanted from God, and I realized my selfishness. I wanted to fix all the small things about me for which I was insecure, but I neglected to care about weightier matters: the salvation of my soul and my love for others.  

Jesus warns his disciples against that attitude, telling them to “be not solicitous” [1] and “[s]eek first the Kingdom of God.” [2] It took me a while to realize Jesus did not instruct us to replace the little voice that whispers “you’re not good enough” with the little voice that whispers “you’re always good enough”; in other words, to replace anxiousness with contentment. We should not live carefree lives, but we also should not worry too much about lesser things. I often think about the Lord’s words to Martha, who tended to housework while Jesus visited. Jesus says, “Martha, Martha […] you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed or indeed only one. Mary has chosen the better part and it is not to be taken from her.” Scott Hahn’s commentary on Matthew makes it clear that when Jesus calls us to “[s]eek first the Kingdom of God,” He calls us to prioritize our spiritual needs above our physical ones—to prioritize love for others, for ourselves, and for God above temporal goods. 

But the longing for perfection that animated my anxieties, although misplaced, was not unfounded. Our desire for perfection expresses humanity’s universal homesickness. By the sin of Adam, our greatness has been forever diluted and debased, and we yearn for the state of perfection from whence we fell. And although our first concern should be for our soul and for the souls of others, we should strive to be better in all facets of our lives. As Cardinal Newman said, “To live is to change, and to change often is to become more perfect.” [4]

Yet we should also remember that our deficiencies often work together for the greater glory of God and ourselves. Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa that “[T]here is no reason why human nature should not have been raised to something greater after sin. For God allows evils to happen in order to bring a greater good therefrom.” That Christian mystery leads me to think about what my father said about Sam. If Sam had the wisdom of Gandalf and the strength of Aragorn or if they were there to help him, his deeds would not have been as heroic. For only by plunging us down to our lowest depths can the Author of the universe, whose consubstantial Son became incarnate not as a king but as a carpenter, raise us up to our highest.  



1: Matthew 6:25, Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible.

2: Matt. 6:33, DRCB.

3: Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 1845.

4: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologia, “Article 3: Whether, if Man had not sinned, God would have become Incarnate,” Reply to Objection 3.


Grayson Brooks 25 is potentially majoring in Chemistry or Physics. He’s a cradle Catholic hailing from New York City with a deep and abiding passion for chicken pot pie. Much of that which he loves has been destroyed or sent into exile. 

Above Ground

In the land of manna,

you experienced healing through 

      reflections of street lights in rain puddles

      the sale bin at Brandy Melville

      broken train lines

      & kind faces


You rode a moving staircase 

that emerged above ground 

under a tree canopy 


In the land of manna,

you felt beautiful for 

the first time


Let this be a testimony 

of God piecing together a 

heart that needed healing


Sarah Gantt 23 is an Art History and English major with a French concentration. She enjoys reading poetry, coxing on the Williams Women’s Crew team, and biking in the Berkshires.


“When you my Friend are passing by

And this Inform

 you where I ly

Remember you er’e long

                                               must have

Like me a Mansion in the Grave”

              – Tombstone of Dr. John Johnson, 33, Williamstown

A raven asked me to recall

My means to live before my fall

But turtle doves care not

                                               to sing

Of autumn’s storagethey yearn for spring


I sought to mend, yet found my blood

Beneath this gate of oak and mud

As Mother, Father, God

                                               and Friend

Enwraps my corpse with wounds, His end


A friend of Abram, kin to Job

Recounts redeeming fast and woe

For bores from which His pus

                                               had gone

Now shines, the balm for which we long


This Hut of Dirt entombs my bones

Yet holds them for my hope of thrones

Abandoned now as e-

                                               very man

Forgets himself to crown the Lamb


I wrote this poem in the fall of 2021 after cleaning graves around All Souls’ Day for a little while with friends, which was cut short by our rags decomposing into worn strips of dirty cloth. I found Dr. John Johnson’s tombstone and was so struck by his epitaph that I took pictures of it and expanded on it to create this poem that evening. (Dr. Johnson, if you’re reading this, I hope you’ll appreciate my stealing your thunder as a form of reflection on the theme wrought on your tombstone.) There are no records of him anywhere (which I could find on the Internet) except the Commonwealth’s record of his death at the age of 33 on May 8, 1782.

I don’t yearn for death. Very few people do. With this poem, I intended to help myself see death as a “gate” into something genuinely worthy of longing, a “Mansion in the Grave,” because of the bodily life, suffering, and death of the very Lamb of God. Death, that ugly dirt hut, has been remodeled by Christ the Carpenter! Even as germs and worms chew through our rotting organs, Christian death has become an invitation into a great and eternal adventure! Let us live and die with vigorous joy.


Nicolas Jay Schroeter ’22 majored in Classics and Religion with a concentration in Jewish Studies. He’s a Catholic (convert), a Texan, a vegetarian, and not a blogger. He misses yellow grass and frito chili pie. Racial reparations are necessary.

Longing for Legacy

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”

– Philippians 3:7

Over the summer, I finally watched Breaking Bad and was blown away by the show’s climactic moments that portray our society’s struggles of violence, greed, and pride. However, there’s one quieter scene that has kept bouncing around my head for longer than I expected.

Throughout the show, we follow Walter White, a chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer who cooks crystal meth to pay for his treatment and support his family. As Walt grows increasingly attached to the money and power he is receiving and it becomes harder to hide his crimes, he faces dilemmas that change him from a loving and desperate father into a hardened kingpin whose family increasingly resents him. In the episode “Salud,” Walt takes painkillers after being badly injured in an argument and ends up missing his son Junior’s sixteenth birthday. Later in the episode, Junior goes to check in on his clearly intoxicated father, who then uncharacteristically breaks down in tears and apologizes. The next morning, a sober Walt finds Junior and opens up about his own father also dying young before saying, “I don’t want you to think of me as the way I was last night. I don’t want that to be the memory you have of me when I’m gone.” [1]

This line hit me hard. Though I don’t like to admit it, I think the reason is because I often find myself feeling like Walt here. Deep down, I know there’s a part of me that also longs to be remembered after I’m gone, a part that’s scared of not doing enough with life, or worse, thinking that nothing I did truly mattered. I don’t really like this feeling, and so in looking for guidance, I found some comfort by going down a rabbit hole into 2 Corinthians.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul is dealing with false teachers who have infiltrated the church in Corinth, a church which already struggles with factions and internal divisions, as we know from Paul’s earlier letter. [2] These “super apostles,” as Paul backhandedly calls them, prioritize status and money, and they try to discredit Paul for possessing neither. Among the accusations, they mention how Paul’s “letters are weighty and forceful, but his physical presence is unimpressive, and his speaking is of no account.” [3] 

I always pictured Paul to be this powerful presence as a speaker, especially since in Acts we see Paul’s grand speeches throughout the Mediterranean and are told how “every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.” [4] I was caught off guard to read this accusation since the two accounts then felt like they were somehow in tension with each other. However, as I looked into it, I started to learn that a lot more is going on.

A helpful clue comes from New Testament professor Judith Diehl, who explains how “in that culture, oratory was a recognized talent and trade, and clever speech was designed to make money.” [5] This is consistent with what we find in Chapter 11, where Paul asks, “Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?” [6] Paul is acknowledging that he could have been like the rest of the world, using his preaching for money, but decided not to, since his priorities were to build up his congregation, not himself.

Adding onto this, New Testament professor Craig Keener in his popular Bible Backgrounds Commentary points out how the accusation against Paul “need not mean that he is a terrible speaker,” [7] but instead that “Paul’s speech reflects insufficient rhetorical training to impress the powerful people of society.” [8] I think the word “impress” is key there. Paul certainly could have spoken in such a way that his preaching would bring recognition to himself, but how could he do that when the point of his preaching was to bring recognition to Jesus?

Suddenly, Paul being accused of poor public speaking starts to make sense. It’s not that he was incoherent, but rather that he had a tool at his disposal that could have brought him money and status, but he instead used it to bring people to Christ, something that puzzled the super apostles. Instead of solidifying his own legacy, he helped spread Jesus’. It’s the lived-out example of Paul’s maxim in Galatians: “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” [9]

Going back to that scene from Breaking Bad, it’s interesting to see how much Walt is acting like a super apostle. He is so obsessed with money and power that acting emotional and vulnerable in front of his son is seen as a blemish on the legacy he is trying so hard to curate for himself, so he asks his son not to remember that moment. It wasn’t enough to just be remembered; Walt needed to have control over what those memories were.

What makes the scene hit even harder is Junior’s response to his father’s request. “Remembering you that way wouldn’t be so bad. The bad way to remember you would be the way you’ve been this whole past year. At least last night you were real.” [10]

In an excellent video essay on this scene, YouTuber Aleczandxr comments how Walt “was ironically doomed to become the type of person that would never leave the type of impact he desired.” [11] Walt worked so hard to hide his double life as a drug lord that it ended up costing him his relationship with his family, even when all his son wanted was for his father to be present and honest. Junior’s final line of the scene reminds us how we all impact people in ways we may never know, ultimately rendering our legacy different from anything we could predict regardless of how hard we may try to control it. This fact that we can impact those around us without ever knowing the results is both an incredible privilege and a terrifying responsibility. 

As I’ve thought more about legacy, I’ve often been drawn to this beautiful reflection on Jesus’ command to be salt. “Do you have any memories of finishing a great meal and having the conversation turn to how great the salt was? Me neither. It’s something that does its job but doesn’t draw attention to itself. The body needs it in order to maintain fluid balance, blood pressure, and nerve/muscle function. It makes the flavor of food peak. And yet very rarely do we feel the need to notice or talk about it… Our eyes are searching for big things, breakthroughs, defining moments… and Jesus reminds us that the kingdom of God is like salt. Mostly unnoticed, doing good work.” [12]

Like Paul, we all have been given tools that we can use either to promote ourselves or to promote Jesus. Though I still struggle with this longing to create a legacy, I think by following Paul’s example, I can work to care less about legacy and also make sure the memory that I do leave uplifts the right things. And more importantly, I can take comfort in knowing that the only one who will truly remember my legacy is also the one who made me and knows me and wants to help guide me towards His purpose. Lord, give me the strength to promote and to trust you more.



1: ”Salud,” Breaking Bad, Season 4, Episode 10.

2: 1 Corinthians 1:10, New International Version.

3: 2 Cor. 10:10, NIV.

4: Acts 18:4, NIV.

5: Judith A. Diehl. The Story of God Bible Commentary: 2 Corinthians, ed. Tremper Longman III and Scot McKnight (Zondervan Academic, Kindle Edition, 2020), 325-326.

6: 2 Cor. 11:7, NIV.

7: Craig S. Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (IVP Academic, 2014), 510.

8: Ibid., 509.

9: Galatians 1:10, NIV.

10: “Salud,” Breaking Bad.

11: Aleczandxr, “The Hidden Origin of Heisenberg,” 19 Apr. 2022.

12: Nancy Ortberg, “Following Jesus,” in Living the King Jesus Gospel, ed. Nijay K. Gupta, et al. (Cascade Books, 2021), 201.


Andrew Nachamkin ’24 is a Statistics and Classics double major and is a board member of Telos and Williams Christian Fellowship. From Cold Spring, NY, he enjoys basketball, theater, his Kindle, and his friends.

Esse Amanda


The breeze told me

that our names serve as prophecy. And

if a request could have floated from my preformed lips up to my mother’s hopes:


I would say 


I cry


As for my mom, she thought   princess

And I can’t complain.

There are perks to being a princess—born with natural talents, set to inherit the realms sitting on those shelves that line my room.

I can paint, harmonize, dance, braid hair, dream, and I have a well-tamed temper that furrows my eyebrows in an endearing way—or so they say.

I became my name.


People tell me there is no use for my classics major.

But I tell them amanda means she who must be loved.

There is something   different   about just being loved.

It’s a fact. A necessity.

The weight of princess is the gildedness of the 

gold. Lovable in nature, lovable for Reasons: 

for the work created, 

for the music made,

for the image painted,

for the role fulfilled.


As diamonds tug at the ear and gemmed bracelets cage both wrists

I say back to the breeze


o esse amanda. [2]



1: Latin for “Not uncommanded do I sing.”

2: Latin for “O to be amanda.”


Sarah Ling 24 loves God and admires His creativity. She is on the continual pursuit of Beauty and hopes that she can mimic even the smallest amount of this in her own life—starting with the Telos journal and graphic designs around the campus and Williams Christian Fellowship.



A Terrifying Love


In the name of the Father

Holy                      Amen                       Spirit,

and the Son and the


I have been meaning to talk to you about this for a while, but I’m not sure how to say it, so I’ll start with a story I like. Socrates was a big fan of staying up late. One night, he and his friends were taking turns making speeches at Agathon’s house about the elusive god Eros: Love. According to Hesiod the poet, Eros was one of the first beings that sprung into existence out of Chaos, because Eros attaches heart-bodies together to grow new heart-bodies. Eros is the thing between Lovers to make new Lovers. Socrates loves Eros because Love is the go-between, going from the Divine to the mundane and back again; Love makes the distance between Lovers’ heart-bodies shorter and shorter. Love laces Lovers. Love represents a self-incompletion, an implication that being unlaced is insufficient. 

Socrates finished his speech and his friends were speechless, except for one lover who was just barging into Agathon’s house: Alcibiades. It was very late now (just how Socrates likes it), and Alcibiades was raucously drunk. He stumbled in, killing the Lovely vibe that had just been instituted and demanding to see Agathon, the outrageously beautiful man who had just won the tragedy competition. He spewed out the hot, alcohol-saturated gas that had built up in his passionate breast when he saw that dreadful man-stealer, Socrates. He unleashed. He accused Socrates of always selfishly taking the prettiest man for himself and pointed to Socrates and Agathon reclining together on the couch. Then Alcibiades composed himself and enunciated his new motive: the great Praise-Roast of Socrates. 

This symposium’s previous intention was to speak in praise of Eros, and Alcibiades now promises to speak in praise of (the terrible) Socrates to keep something of a theme going. He recalls a story in which he tried to seduce Socrates, but it didn’t work despite his best efforts, despite his love for Socrates, all his charm and all his manly beauty. Humiliated. He had thrown all his pride away to have a night of love with Socrates, and Socrates quietly disempowered his intention because Alcibiades was trying to trade his superficial youthful beauty for Socrates’ internal polished beauty, “bronze for gold.” Reminded of the vast chasm of moral difference between himself, an objectifying thrill-seeking drunkard, and Socrates, the monogamously Good-seeking Wisdom-Loving (Philo-Sopher), Alcibiades picks up an accusation of Socrates, which I now redirect towards you, Menōn: I lovehate you because you’re always like this, you goatman/Godman! Every time I’m with you, your words wriggle under my skin like worms in a dead animal, effervescently spraying up foam like a shaken soda in my uncarbonated heart, always impelling me to transform my ways, to trade in my worthless garbage for your gold, always making me itchingly aware of how absurd and selfish my choices are! Every time I hear your divine guidance caked in your simple words, the beautiful Call to all-encompassingly follow you, and her evil twin Status Quo, assail my stupid heart because you truly demand everything!

Menōn, once, in somebody’s house, you told your disciples that the kingdom of the heavens is the same as a treasure buried in a field that a seeker finds – the seeker buries it again, and joyfully inspired, gathers and sells everything they have and buys that field there! You even told that story in the present tense in the perspective of that seeker because it’s such an impassioned story! But it’s such a scary story too, Menōn. You offer us the kingdom of the heavens in exchange for our very selves. You told your disciples to Love you with all our thought-feeling and all our breath and all our ability, and to Love everyone else like we Love ourselves, and you tell us and show us how that way is the way that aligns us with the creation that was made through you, that fills up the emptiest bucket in our hearts with exactly what it thirsts for and aligns us with the thirst of every other breathing thing that manages to Love, unbroken by the hate we do. One of your disciples later told some of his disciples that you demand us to Love, that anybody who says that they know you but doesn’t Love is a liar, and that your Love is here so that we carry out your demand to Love, which isn’t too heavy! But Menōn, my love doesn’t fill like yours does. My love pushes its objects away and locks the doors and sputters out when I refuse to install the new engine you gave me, but yours walks out and wades in and waits for. Your Love comes near to make stone-hearts into new Lovers. My love is a shallow kiddy pool that only I can uncomfortably sit in, but yours is the endless briny expanse of the watery heavens, swelling with waves and circling riptides that suck our empty bucket-hearts into its infinite unpolluted twinkle, and you offer us a boat to tell all the empty buckets where they can get so full that the rim forgets itself! I’m so frustrated, Menōn! How do I somehow always mistake this all-consuming flood for a quaint little once-a-day half-hearted coffee date with you? How do I mistake your call for me to drop everything and follow you for an occasional recognition that my stuff is yours while I waste away in the life-sucking desert of personal material security? How do I mistake your call for me to lose myself in the stomach-butterflies-inducing honeymoon with yourself and the rest of your beautiful humanity for the torture of my spiritualist solitary confinement that I punish myself with, somehow thinking that goodness for me isn’t part of the same stew you’re making for the goodness of every person? 

But Menōn, I can’t live a filled-up life without you. You’re the vine, and we are the branches. You’re the abiding in us: the menōn in us. You’re the fullness. Your way is to turn our minds and give you our loyalty – to “repent and believe.” “Salvation” without a new Spirit who pours the Love, without working for justice in the ways we’re invited to, without hurting for the hurting, without Loving the Loveless, without speaking truth like you do, without dying to self and finding life in you, without knowing you, isn’t salvation at all. It’s empty words. Menōn, please, be the Socrates to my Alcibiades: uproot my deeply-held cultural worship of that lie that the spirit is me and the body isn’t, that allows me to think I can have a deep Eros with you without radically changing my ways in Body as well as in Spirit. Menōn, abide.

In the name of the Father

Holy                      Amen                       Spirit,

and the Son and the


Nicolas Jay Schroeter ’22 is majoring in Classics and Religion with a concentration in Jewish Studies, all three of which he refers to as “really old stuff.” He’s a Catholic convert, a Texan, and usually a vegan. He misses yellow grass and frito chili pie. Racial reparations are necessary.

For a concisely well-put and beautifully profound picture book that says the same thing Jay was trying to say in this essay, read “Brother John” by August Turak, which Jay discovered several months after writing this piece.


On the Fear of the Lord


“Fear” is not a word I had instinctively associated with any person of the Trinity (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). How could a feeling that lends itself to an aversion toward its object be something that I feel toward God? I trust God the Father on a cognitive and affective level; I call Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Friend; and I see the Holy Spirit as a Counselor. When I think about what it means to fear something, nothing that I would associate immediately with the person and the goodness of God comes to mind.1 

Then what, dear reader, are we to make of Deuteronomy 10:12 which reads, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul”?2 In the same sentence we have the existence of love and fear, but it seems contradictory to love what one fears, or vice versa. Furthermore, how are we to understand Proverbs 1:7 (“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”), or Ecclesiastes 12:13 (“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man”)?3 The authors of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes clearly imply some kind of link between knowledge, also translated as wisdom, duty, and fear. But I would wager that to most of us, fear isn’t a feeling we would readily associate with knowledge or wisdom, let alone perceive as our duty.

So what is going on? It seems as though many other people quoted in the Bible understood what “the fear of the Lord” meant perfectly clearly.4 It is perhaps more convenient to brush this curious phrase aside and focus instead on the love, goodness, kindness, mercy, and grace of God. Those epithets are ones that I understand immediately and know how to fit into my conceptualization of who the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to me.

But I submit to you, dear reader, that Christians lose out on a richness of communion – and arguably even a rightness of communion – in our relationship to and with the Trinity if we do not reflect critically on what many different people speaking at many different times said about “the fear of the Lord.” I want to make two points about this phrase which I hope will provoke you to think about Christian relationships with God in a more nuanced way.

Firstly, the fear of the Lord tells us something about the way that we should know God: knowledge in the relational sense. It is a relational claim upon the psychological attitude of the human toward God that is premised upon an ontological reality (who God is). The Hebrew word used for fear, יִרְאָה (yirah), means not only “fear” as we would use it in conversational English today, but also “reverence.” Furthermore, it communicates a sense of awe.5 Put differently, part of what it means to love God is to treat Him with the reverence and awe that He is due. Jesus called us friends, yes, but we should eventually come to a place where we do not treat God flippantly as we might our friends when we’re having a bad day or when they irritate us. Practically speaking, this means that we recognize God for who He is and treat Him as He deserves. This could look like showing up to Bible study on time, not using your phone to scroll through your social media feeds when listening to someone else share their faith journey, or not dozing off during prayer.6 The question to ask here is what it might mean for you to adopt a posture of yirah toward God in your daily life. 

We are, after all, immensely privileged that the God and Creator of the universe desires to have an intimate personal relationship with us. For some, this journey into a posture of yirah might take longer than others. And that’s okay. God does not demand perfection from us from the moment we start, only that we recognize that it is our end goal and that it is something that we should be working toward: walking closer with Him, trusting Him more, and being more Christlike, day by day.7 What is important is that we take steps on the journey toward those relational states as part of a long obedience in the same direction.

Secondly, the fear of the Lord tells us something about the way that we should come to know about God: knowledge in the more traditional cognitive or propositional sense. As the wisdom literature from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes quoted earlier hints to us, the fear of the Lord moves beyond the aforementioned issue of what is lost in translation from Biblical Hebrew into English; it is also a claim about the context in which theological epistemology takes place. Put simply, when you come to learn about God, what kind of attitude do you have as you do so? Are you simply there for laughs and giggles, to fulfill a promise you made to your friend to turn up for a session of inductive Bible study, or because you had nothing better to do? Again, this is not to say that it is entirely wrong to learn about God in those situations. But our end goal, as part of what it means to cultivate a posture of yirah that leads to wisdom, has to move beyond learning about God solely because of those reasons.

The above is not to say that we put on hermeneutical blinders and cease to critically interrogate the Bible or other theological texts through which we are learning about God. It is not an excuse for dogmatic or sloppy exegesis. But it is to say that we embark on such an undertaking genuinely, desiring to learn just a little bit more about the God who loves the world in such a way as to send His Son to die for us.

I do not find either of the two points which I have discussed easy to live out. This is not the convenient thing to do, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article. This attitudinal shift is not merely a cognitive phenomenon that happens in your mind; it is an orientation that should also very much be expressed through concrete action.8 The second dimension to the meaning of the phrase “the fear of the Lord”, in particular, is far trickier for me. I sometimes find myself coasting through the motions and not being appropriately motivated when learning about God. As Christopher Woznicki, an instructor in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, eloquently puts it, “To fail to approach God with a sense of awe – being both elevated and humbled – would be inappropriate because it would mean that one is either being haughty before God or one is cowering in fear before God.”9 This mediation between the two poles of excessive pride and excessive self-abasement is critical.

But I do not think the difficulty of this task should prevent us from trying; do not let the desired end result stop you from taking the first step. If you do not already have the embers of such a desire within your heart that God can use to fan into flame, pray and ask God to place a spark within your heart, and think about what it might practically mean for you to approach God in a posture of yirah. Start small simply with a mustard seed – and come to realize what mountains that stand in your way may be cast into the ocean. 


1 The goodness of God as expressed on an affective level from a human perspective (Psalm 34:8) and also on an ontological level from Jesus’ fully human and divine perspective (Mark 10:18).

2 ESV; See also Deuteronomy 6, where the commandment to love the Lord (verse 5) is framed by commandments to fear the Lord (verses 2 and 13).

3 ESV; ESV; See also Proverbs 10:27, 14:26, and 15:16.

4 Luke 18:2.; There are other examples: Mary says that “his [God’s] mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50, ESV), Job seems to perceive no contradiction in quoting God as telling man that the fear of the Lord is wisdom (Job 28:28).

5 The Greek word used in the New Testament is φοβέομαι (phobeó), which while is where phobia is derived from, also may contextually have the meaning of reverence (

6 This is not to say that having a posture of yirah must necessarily be constituted in such terms. I believe that whether something is respectful or not is ultimately something best evaluated with reference to its specific context. I am not willing to argue, for example, that being late for Bible study because you were helping a friend through a difficult time by listening to their struggles is necessarily an example of irreverence toward God. 

7 Note that Matthew 5:48 does not demand the end result of perfection from the very beginning of one’s walk, but it does demand that we work toward it.

8 Woznicki himself notes that religious rituals—something that from my own experience Protestants have largely put aside—are a helpful way of cultivating a sense of awe for God both generally and as one learns about God (159).

9 Woznicki, Christopher. “The Awe of the Lord Is the Beginning of Knowledge: The Significance of Awe for Theological Epistemology.” The Expository Times, vol. 131, no. 4, 2019, pp. 159., doi:10.1177/0014524619883172.

Andre Hui ’21 is a Sociology, Religion and Anthropology major and Science and Technology Studies concentrator. He calls Singapore home. When not playing computer games, he enjoys going on culinary adventures, asking questions with no definite answers, and borrowing a dozen books from the library, none of which he finishes and half of which he starts.